Thursday, 24 July 2014

Batman #33 Review (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo)


Batman #33 is the bombastic crescendo of the massive Zero Year storyline. The Batman origin story launched over a year ago, and, like most of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s work on Batman, has been a massive success, creatively and commercially. 

I will say though that Savage City has been my least favourite of the three arcs - Secret City and Dark City were both fantastic and, while Savage City has had plenty of highs, it’s the first part of the series where I’ve noticed lots of contrivances and found myself questioning Snyder’s direction. 

For some reason, fighter jets are coming in to bomb Gotham and it’s up to Gordon and Fox to alert them to stop them. This storyline feels necessarily urgent and exciting but had me asking myself - why? Why is Gotham under threat of being bombed - because the Riddler has the city under his thumb? Surely there are better ways than exploding the place? And while Gordon and Fox use famous Batman tokens in their plans, it’s unclear just what a Bat signal would mean to a fighter pilot - assuming they could see it at speed. 

Meanwhile Batman’s stuck in Riddler’s laser grid and has to answer a dozen riddles before he’s able to save the city. This part was fine with Riddler’s conundrums requiring Bruce to think hard for his answers, showcasing his intelligence and cunning besides his physical prowess, and his answer to the final riddle was inspired. 

And like so much of this series, Snyder and Capullo cram the final, oversized issue with references to Batman’s mythos, both current and future. Gordon mentions Fort Robbins, he encounters an owl, the giant penny plays a big part of the final plan, Gordon creates the Bat signal, Alfred returns and the shot of him cradling Batman in the spotlight echoes the cover of A Death in the Family. 

But I mentioned contrivances and I found the whole “How do I turn the city on?” a bit too simplistic. I love the symbolism of how Batman turns the city on, tying him and Gotham together as if they’re symbiotes or almost organically one and the same, but still… very simplistic and it felt rushed too. 

And then the whole speech Bruce gives about wanting to change his personality via shock treatment was so silly. This is one of Snyder’s ticks that’s getting more and more pronounced in his recent work: he’ll have an incredibly relevant story from the past that perfectly ties into the current storyline in an uncanny way - and it’s getting really contrived now. 

(I did like the line that Bruce thinks a reboot of his personality was unnecessary - was that a sly dig at DC for the way the New 52 has played out?) 

By far the best part of the issue is two small panels in the “One Month Later” section where Bruce and Alfred have a quiet moment together. Bruce looks at Alfred in a way that’s almost sad as it is hopeful and says “You have to know… I’ll never quit”, and Alfred’s wordless look back at Bruce - wow. Those eyes, you could see his heart breaking in those eyes - that killed me. That look said so much and was so powerful and full of fatherly love, you have to just give it to Greg Capullo - the man nailed it. 

But whatever my problems with this issue and the Savage City arc as a whole, Zero Year concludes as an unquestionable triumph. By the time the issue’s over, Batman’s world is set - the entire series has been as much about the creation of Batman as a character as it has his world, his city, and we see Arkham Asylum slowly take shape, and the city looks like the city of the current Batman (even with those daft Bat ears at the top of the Wayne building!). 

Snyder and Capullo went into this arc with readers expecting a travesty of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s masterpiece, Year One, and they got something totally different but also completely true to the spirit of the character. It might not be the best ending but most of this arc has been so transcendently good it can be overlooked - Batman #33 concludes this astonishing story very satisfactorily.

Batman #33 (Zero Year)

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